Stephen Hawking “once stated that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes.” That being said, maybe there’s a universe in which we were together. Maybe there’s another universe in which I finally looked right. Maybe there’s one in which I turned out all right. In which we turned out all right. Maybe there’s a universe out there somewhere or somewhen in which I was finally happy. Maybe someday that universe could be this one.
My mom told me that I just “like to suffer,” that even though I’m in pain, it’s more fun to complain about it than to take care of it. I wanted to tell her that I know. I know. I know I don’t take care of myself. I know that I dig my heels in when somebody asks me to do simple tasks to take care of myself. I know that all I need to do is take my allergy meds or call my doctor, but I fight it and take half the day working up the energy to do so—because I’m depressed. I know that these tasks are simple, and once I do them I’ll feel better, but the energy required to do them, emotional or otherwise, is monumental. Sometimes I don’t even know why I’m digging my heels in; all I know is that these tasks are unpleasant, and the prospect of adding more unpleasantness to my life is, at times, unbearable.
So, yes, I know that it doesn’t look like I’m trying. I know. But I really am trying my best. I’m fighting against a disease that drains my soul of every good thing within me, that forces me to ignore the good and focus on the bad, that makes every small task monumental. I want to explain it, but all I can come up with are excuses.
Right now, every muscle in my body aches. I don’t know why. My head is foggy, and I’m drowning in bone-deep exhaustion. The tasks that I know I need to do tower above me, and everything feels so overwhelming I think I might cry. I don’t know how to fix this. All I know is that I don’t like to suffer, but it seems like that’s the easiest course of action. I know I need to get better, but I’m lost as to how. I know. I know.
In the past forty-eight hours, I’ve become a human catastrophe. I’ve burned myself and dropped my breakfast twice in one morning, crushed my fingers while trying to lift my bike, and, while trying to push around a box too heavy for me to lift, caused it to split open, so I spent twenty minutes in someone else’s living room trying to transfer all the contents to a new, hopefully sturdier box. I’ve covered myself in scrapes and bruises from packing up the contents of my room and shuffling it all over campus, filled my lungs with mold spores while trying to clean a trash can, and forgot my bags in my friend’s car twice. Then there was the bus ride.
I don’t actually know why I’ve managed to become so incompetent lately, (maybe it’s the stress of packing and traveling all on my own?) but I’m hoping it can be remedied with lowered stress levels and a decent amount of sleep. Until I can get those two things under control, I’m taking solace in the fact that most of my messes have only impacted me, and for those that haven’t, I’m eating a big slice of humble pie and apologizing for as long as anyone will listen. Beyond that, I’m reminding myself that the power of human kindness does in fact appear to trump whatever mess I may cause in my stint as a human catastrophe… as evidenced by the rest of this post.
Human catastrophe: Lugging no less than six bags, I managed to make it through the door to the bus’s baggage station (on the third try. To be honest, it was only because someone held the door for me). The lady at the counter looked very, very unimpressed, which I really couldn’t blame her for, as I was impressively disorganized. I tried to check two of my bags, which costs extra, and she essentially said: nope, not happening. She had me weigh them, and I was thinking, ok, this is it, it’s over; I was so afraid that they would go over the fifty-pound weight limit and I would have to buy a box to ship my stuff in.
Human kindness: To keep the cost down, she told me to strap two of my lightest bags together, so I only had to pay for one instead of two extra bags. When I told her I didn’t have anything to do that, she hunted around for zip ties, and strapped the bags together for me, going out of her way to help me out.
Human catastrophe: I got a nosebleed on the bus ride back home, and so I sat there desperately pawing through my backpack in search of tissues one-handed, trying not to bleed on anything. The person sitting next to me started, and immediately grabbed their bag, pulling it onto their lap, which I totally couldn’t fault them for; I wouldn’t want a stranger to bleed on my stuff, either.
Human kindness: Instead, they pulled out a packet of tissues, handing them to me. They suggested I lean my seat back so it would be easier to tilt my head back to stop the bleeding. Once I managed to mop myself up, they double-checked that I was okay, and made sure I had water in case the nosebleed was caused by dehydration.
Human catastrophe: I had too much stuff crammed in it to get my backpack closed, so when I left the bus and tried to grab my other bags from the storage space, first my sunglasses fell out, and then my glass bottle fell out and shattered, too. Thankfully, it only splashed on my luggage, but people were making comments about how it smelled strange (Kombucha isn’t alcoholic, but boy does it smell like it). At this point I was ready for the earth to open up and swallow me whole.
Human kindness: Someone mentioned that it was probably because my bag was half-open, and I said: I know, I’m so sorry, I couldn’t get it closed. She offered to help, and I mumbled: oh, I mean, you can if you want, thank you, but I’m not sure it can close. Before I could take the backpack off, she stepped behind me, trying to close it. A man walked out of the crowd to help, too, and between the two of them they got it closed. Then after I thanked them, and began picking up the broken glass, another person stepped forward to help.
I’m still so grateful of these random acts of kindness; they helped make a stressful experience better, and really helped me get through the day.
Please feel free to laugh at my incompetence, or at the very least, feel better about yourself that you’re not as much of a mess as me. If, on the other hand, you are, then at least there’s someone else out there who gets this. Maybe knowing the other side makes us more likely to show human kindness when we see someone who needs it, too.
So I found this little comic by Matthew McGuigan. It managed to bring a smile to my face, possibly because I found it so horrifically relatable, and it pretty much summarizes my mentality right now.
I'm still slowly chipping myself out of this hole depression's dug for me, and some days are easier than others. I have to learn to be proud of myself for little accomplishments, such as getting out of bed when that's the last thing on Earth I want to do, or choosing to go to class instead of the zoo (an inexplicable urge this morning, which at least helped me get out of bed). I need to recognize that getting some things done is better than nothing, even if I have to lay down for a while afterwards because doing things exhausted me.
Also: when I typed the title for this post, autocorrect informed me that I'd misspelled sleep, written exactly like that. It then suggested I correct it to-- you guessed it-- sleep. I then stared at it for so long that the word lost all meaning, so I decided to record this whole nonevent as a new low. Whether it was for me or for autocorrect, I wasn't quite sure.
I'm having a really bad week. There hasn't been anything new in my life that happened or went wrong, exactly; it's just one of those weeks when I'm having an incredibly difficult time coping, and the darkness in my mind has grown up around me, creating a seemingly impenetrable fortress. It's one of those weeks when, try as I might, I can't seem to manage any of my responsibilities, and all I have the energy-- mental or otherwise-- to do is peruse social media, taking brief breaks to attempt to do things that are supposed to make me happy, like writing or drawing. These past few days, I've considered it an accomplishment if I can even hold a conversation with someone.
That being said, I'm doing my best to distract myself, and surround myself with cheerful, funny things to try to pull myself back together again. I was checking out a mental illness blog I like, one that usually posts resources or bits of inspiration, and I came across this image:
Cheerful, if slightly macabre? Check. Full of suggestions for what I should do when I'm completely at a loss? Check. Cute ghost art? Octuple check.
According to their website, "The Sad Ghost Club is a club for anyone who’s ever felt sad or lost. It’s the club for those who don’t feel like they’re part of any other club."
In that case, I think I just joined the club. I feel so accomplished, today.
While I've been meaning to write about my recent trip home (I'll do it soon, really), today is not shaping up to be a day where I'm able to focus. My mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and she's undergoing surgery today. While everyone's been telling me not to worry, that's a bit like telling a fish not to swim; it's just not gonna happen.
So, while I should be doing things like schoolwork, instead I decided to cheer myself up a bit by watching baby animal videos. I thought I'd share some, since I can't be the only person who needs cheering up, so maybe they'll help you, too.
You can be a baby sloth wrangler. If that's not the best job in the world, I don't know what is, and clearly you need to reexamine your priorities.
If sloths aren't your thing, you can check out cute pandas playing on a slide...
...or even a koala joey going about its daily life. Warning: so cute you might cry.
If you're still down, might I suggest getting a pep talk from a cat? (I can't pick a favorite, so my top three are Jane, Marvin and 99).
And finally, know that you're going to be okay. I know things are so hard right now. I know you're tired and all you want to do is give up. And that's okay; it's okay to feel like that. It's okay to be sad, it's okay to cry, it's okay to feel. But please don't give in. Don't give up. I believe in you, I know you can get through this. My brother once told me that it doesn't matter if things have been going wrong for seven weeks or seven years; things always pick up in the end. Things will pick up for me, and they'll pick up for you, too. If you ever need to talk, I'm here.
You got this.
(A bit of added inspiration, because try as I might I couldn't end this post on a serious note. Angry, oddly inspirational wolf memes. Thank you, internet.)
Fair warning, this isn’t a funny post. Although I started this blog in the hopes that I would spend most of my time writing things to make people laugh, that isn’t possible today. This post probably isn’t going to make a lot of sense, but I needed to solidify the thoughts clanging around in my head, to release them.
Apparently, people shouldn’t be nice to me, because I’ll start crying. Because that’s a thing, now.
This is probably a sign that my mental health’s worse that I thought, but to be fair, I’ve had a bit of a rough month. I’ve been sick for at least three weeks, and now the doctor believes I’m developing a stomach ulcer because I’ve been taking so many pain meds. On top of that, we lost another friend, marking the fifth person I’ve lost in the past twelve months (in addition to one of my cats). I was only really close to one of them, but it’s still been difficult. I haven’t gone to any of their funerals, having only had the opportunity to do so for one, on a day when I was so beaten-down I was almost physically incapable of going.
We lost Ryan last year, and his death still weighs heavy. He was a member of our congregation, and the church band; a friend of my dad’s, and the brother to one of my friends, Emily. Although he and I weren’t close, his death still hit close to home for me. Aside from seeing so many people I was close to in pain, his death reminded me of another friend I had lost, one who was very close to his age. Kyle was my godparent’s son, and though there was a ten-year age gap between us, we were close. He was very close to my current age when he died. He was the first person I lost. His death was a violent one, one that struck deep into the heart of our community. It’s been fourteen years, and his death is still with me, particularly in recent days; the anniversary of his death is only a few days away. I’ve seen what happens when a parent loses their child; how that pain never truly goes away. I didn’t want to see my friend, Emily, or her family go through that.
In October, we lost my Aunt Rebecca. We were very close, so her death was, in a lot of ways, worse than Ryan’s. It just didn’t seem that way at first.
With Ryan, I had received an e-mail at dinner from my church’s pastor informing us of his death. I quietly left the dining hall, calling my mom to tell her the news. I started crying, quickly growing more hysterical until I collapsed in my room.
With Aunt Rebecca, it was a little different.
I had gone down to the Bay Area with a group of friends. We had left Friday evening, and got to my house—where we’d be staying—after midnight. I had mixed feelings about going on this trip; on one hand, I was excited to see my family and pets, but I was nervous, because not only was I not yet out to my family, which could cause some tension (I was out to the friends who were staying with us), I was leaving behind another friend who was in a tough spot. I had given him some bad advice earlier that day, and, thinking better of it, decided to research what I had told him.
I discovered that if he had followed through with what I honestly thought would be okay, he could easily die.
I sent him several frantic texts, which he didn’t reply to for nearly an hour, during which time I became convinced I’d killed him. I started dissociating (which I explained in a previous post, here). Finally, he did reply, and told me that he was okay, that he didn’t follow through. I can’t begin to describe the relief I felt, but this didn’t ease the dissociation.
I ended up dissociating for the remainder of the two-and-a-half day trip.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I believe the dissociation explains my reaction to the news of Aunt Rebecca’s death.
My dad sat me down early Saturday morning, and told me she had passed sometime in the night. I just sat there, staring at the books on the shelf across from me, thinking that I should be crying. I knew I should be crying; crying’s a normal reaction, something normal people do. But I just couldn’t muster up enough emotion to cry. I realized I should be very, very afraid, because although dissociation was normal enough for me, it had never gone this long or become this intense, and not being able to feel was a horrible forewarning of what might come next.
My mom pulled me aside later that day, after dad had left for work, and told me the same news. She refused to believe me when I said I knew, because I just wasn’t upset enough. She explained again that Aunt Rebecca had died, and when I told her Dad had already told me, she just stared at me incredulously. “Why aren’t you upset?” she asked, and the look on her face, like there was something wrong with me, like maybe I wasn’t even human, almost scared me more than not feeling.
“I’m just trying to process everything,” I explained, and prayed it wasn’t a lie, that soon enough the feeling would return and I would cry over the loss of such an important person in my life.
It took me two more days.
I was thinking about my Aunt on my way to my first class on Monday, and stopped halfway there, crying in the middle of the sidewalk. I still remember calling my mom up as I walked back to my dorm, the first words out of my mouth simply being that I missed my Aunt.
I’ve lost five people this year. There are days when I’m fine, and can easily function. Then there are days like today, when the messy losses of this year weigh so heavy that a stranger’s kindness brings me to tears. All I can hope is that tomorrow will be better.
Today seems to be a day for brutal honesty about the aspects of my life which the world often demands I cover up. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for years now, and many days—I may even dare to say most—my mental illnesses are manageable. On other days, these illnesses and their side effects weigh on me so heavily I can no longer function, at least not in a way that’s expected of me, both by myself and others.
One of the ways my mental illnesses manifest themselves is through dissociation.
According to Mental Health America, “Dissociation is a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity. Dissociation seems to fall on a continuum of severity. Mild dissociation would be like daydreaming, getting “lost” in a book, or when you are driving down a familiar stretch of road and realize that you do not remember the last several miles.” In Jenny Lawson’s book, Furiously Happy, she wrote “[I have] occasional depersonalization disorder, which makes me feel utterly detached from reality, but in less of a "this LSD is awesome" kind of way and more of a "I wonder what my face is doing right now" and "it sure would be nice to feel emotions again" sort of thing.”
When I use the word dissociation, I use it almost interchangeably with depersonalization, as my experiences with both are occasionally difficult to distinguish from one another.
As with most of my illnesses, there are stages to which I experience dissociation.
Most often, it’s fairly mild, and just feels like someone put a blanket over me, obscuring my senses and making it rather difficult to feel a full range of emotions. It’s a sort of detachment, a numbing that isn’t unpleasant but couldn’t really be categorized as fun, either. I can feel enough to empathize with other people, but when others ask me how I feel, I draw a blank. I don’t know how I feel, because I don’t really feel anything. Then, rather than explain this, I try to think back to the last time I was in this situation or these surroundings, and I try to remember how I felt then, and I answer like that.
Then there are times when dissociation gets scary. There are times when I stare into the mirror and I can’t recognize my own face. Or someone close to me dies and I can’t wake up long enough to cry, and I’m afraid I’m a monster because I don’t really feel sad—I don’t really feel anything at all. Or I lose touch with reality. That last one can vary. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of an anxiety attack and worry that I’ll go back to someplace where something awful happened to me, then start worrying that I never left and I’m still there, so I have to find some way to ground myself, to convince myself I’m safe. Other times I’ll be staring out my car window and start to question reality, not in a conspiracy-theory “I think the aliens are controlling the universe” way but more along the lines of “wow those threes look so weird. They don’t even look real. I don’t think they’re real. I don’t think what I’m seeing is real. Maybe I’ve just dreamt up all I’m seeing, and all my memories and experiences are just dreams. Maybe this world isn’t real, and I’ve just dreamt it up. Maybe I’m not even real. Maybe my body doesn’t exist, and I’m just a consciousness. Maybe even that’s not real. Maybe I don’t exist.”
Like most—arguably, all—mental illnesses, dissociation is one of those things that isn’t supposed to be talked about, certainly not in any detail. I can understand the sentiment. For those lucky people without mental illnesses, such topics can be very uncomfortable to hear about. For those who experience mental illness, it can be terrifying to talk about the awful things they experience. Nobody wants to be seen as a monster, and unfortunately, that stigma and others are still widely prevalent. I still haven’t made up my mind over whether or not it’s a good idea to post this, but I know that by not talking about mental illness, we’re only condemning those who suffer from them to live in the shadows. And the shadows is no place to live.
Today I’ve been wondering if there are people out there who feel as old as they are in years. I know that time as we think of it is a human construct and age is really only useful in terms of development and awarding people liberties, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s anyone who looks at how many years they’ve lived and thinks, yes, this exactly is how old I feel.
I’m nineteen, pushing twenty, and how old I feel fluctuates. Sometimes I feel only seventeen, but other times I fall somewhere between ninety and one hundred.
I was thirteen when I stopped caring whether I lived or died, and I think I felt roughly seventy; just old enough to leave me in purgatory, waiting in an in-between place, caught somewhere between life and death.
It was on my eighteenth birthday that I sat in my room absolutely dumbstruck, incapable of wrapping my mind around the fact that I’d made it that far. That was when I hit ninety.
Every moment since then has felt precarious, apprehensive, like it could all very easily end the next day, but I had made my peace with it. I had lived long enough, like I had ninety-some odd years of experience behind me.
I believe it’s on the days when I’m feeling the brunt my depression that I feel old.
It’s only when I’m anxious do I feel seventeen, but not my seventeen, not in my late eighties and most of my way to where I am now. It’s another man’s seventeen, the borrowed year of a seventeen-year-old with a mind that felt and perhaps even was ancient. It’s on those days when my skin is too tight and my fingers dance and itch and I feel scars between my shoulder blades. It’s on those days when I pace too quickly and I can’t take a deep breath and I feel the need to fly to another place even if it means having to fight my way out of this one. I feel the need to fight, to escape, because I can’t convince myself that I’m safe here, or anywhere people know me, where there may be someone who recognizes my face. It’s on those days where the only way I can describe the thoughts in my head is by borrowing the life of man I dreamt up, and we’re seventeen again.
I’m seventeen, today, and I look it. Already that’s fading; I’m growing older, back to the safety and impermanency of a grown man who knows his years are numbered but can’t make himself care.
I don’t know if I’m safer when I’m seventeen or ninety-nine, but I do know I’m safe here, tonight. I may make terrible mistakes, say or write terrible things, but no action I will take will kill me. Not while I’m in this house.
After all, seventeen is too young to know when to die.
I’ve been meaning to write a post—any post—for several weeks now, but all I’ve really managed are several half-finished catastrophes. I want to write something humorous, but I haven’t really been capable of it, so hope this post will serve as an acceptable explanation.
For the past week, I’ve had a mug of hot chocolate sitting on my desk.
It’s a bit like a ritual for me to have hot chocolate on days when I’m having a very hard time, and on this occasion I pulled out all the stops: extra scoops of cocoa mix, milk instead of water, and little chunks of Ghirardelli chocolate. As I was about to drink it, one of my roommates came to my door so we could go to class. It was a day when I was proud of myself just for getting out of bed, and I wasn’t entirely sure I was up to leaving the house, but he was encouraging me, and didn’t look like he would take no for an answer.
By the time I came back, the drink was ice-cold, and likely already starting to go bad. I told myself I’d take care of it that evening, after I’d finished my homework and relaxed for a bit.
I then promptly forgot about it.
So now I have a mug of completely inedible hot chocolate sitting on my desk. Every time I sat down over the course of this past week, the mug was staring me full in the face. It gradually took on a splotchy color, and began to grow mold.
Still, I did nothing.
I would just open up my laptop, blocking my view of the cup with my screen, all the while hating myself for being utterly incapable of taking care of it. It’s a ridiculously simple task: just carry the cup out to the kitchen, dump it in the sink, and rinse it out with water. I wouldn’t even necessarily have to wash it by hand; I could just use the dishwasher.
Every day, the task would get minimally more challenging, as the milk spoiled and the mold grew more boldly towards the edges of the cup.
No matter how simple a task it may have been in the beginning, or realistically how simple it is now, I still find myself unable to take the step.
Depression is full of situations like that.
You have things you should be doing, things you need to be doing, things you know shouldn’t feel this daunting. Yet the energy needed to accomplish or even begin the most menial task is so monumental that you put it off. Putting it off, of course, means these tasks increase in complexity, until you have an Everest-sized list of things to do and no energy to do them. Meanwhile, new tasks are added to your list every day.
My analogy for depression changes almost every day, depending on how it’s affecting me. Some days it’s like a fog, obscuring even my closest surroundings. Some days it’s like drowning, where you’re fighting with everything you’ve got but you just can’t make it above water on your own. This week, it was like freezing to death. You know you have things to do: you must shoulder your responsibilities, you must get off this mountain and go back to a place where you will be safe and alive. But the snow cradles you, the wind whispers to you, and the lure of the mountain promises that you will be better off here than back down where your loved ones are. The snow cries for you to stay where the winds assure you that you are safe, and the winds try to convince you that you would not be better off back where you came from, that your family and friends don’t want you anywhere but on the top of this mountain. You know the mountain will kill you; if you stay there it will get you eventually. But the snow feels warmer than your mother’s arms, the winds feel kinder than your friend’s smiles, and you have to wonder if it would be worth it to climb all the way back down.
There are days when I’m not sure. There are days when I feel the best course of action for me and those I love would be for me to remain on this mountain until the snow overtakes me, and I can hurt no longer.
This is wrong.
There will always be days when I forget the mountain top is not a place I should be, but that I belong back down at the foot of the mountain. I belong not alone and clinging to the side of a snowy cliff but back home in the village surrounded by those I love. I belong with my friends and family. The snow is not warmer that my mother’s arms or my dad’s laugh or my brother’s smile or my friend’s company. The winds are lying when they say those I love don’t love me back. The mountain is a trap.
I belong at the foot of the mountain.
So do you.
I have no idea what I'm doing.